A Personal Tribute: Leonard Nimoy

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Star Trek in the realm of visual science fiction has allowed many to dream of a better world. It has additionally enabled people to dream of growing as individuals in the finite time that we have on Earth. The latter idea particularly has resonance due to the amazing characters that were created for the show; none was more meaningful nor immediate in encapsulating the human experience than Spock.

Conceptually, the science officer of the Enterprise represents the continuous conflict that resides in all human beings, that of emotion and logic, made apparent because of Spock’s half-human and half-Vulcan heritage. For any actor, this character would seem like a daunting prospect to play.

However, it is a credit to Leonard Nimoy that he was able to find that delicate balance in his acting that allowed the audience to relate to him. Whether it was his dry wit, his bafflement and curiosity of human practices or even his famous eyebrow cocking. Mr Nimoy made many great choices as an actor in creating the iconic character. Despite this, Mr Nimoy’s mark on Star Trek was far greater than just turning up and putting on the ears. After the emotional, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the world had thought that Nimoy was done with playing Spock on screen.

But a change of heart and a larger role in the creative process made Nimoy come back to the fold. The result was Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the first of Nimoy’s directed Trek pictures. Despite being a massive retcon of the death of Spock, the film still delivers in being an engaging cinematic experience. It added much to the canon including the death of Kirk’s son, David, which sets up his hatred of Klingons and reinforces one of the central themes of the picture.

The film was about the lengths that one goes to in order to pursue a meaningful, intrinsically good goal can be fraught with obstacles, but one’s resolve is enough in order to achieve them. Mr. Nimoy returned to the directing chair and delivered arguably the most popular installment in the Trek film series, with the 1986 picture, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.

It was easily the most accessible film, and its light touch was a welcome relief after two emotionally overwhelming films. Mr. Nimoy’s contrast of the intrepid crew of the Enterprise with contemporary 1980s San Francisco was a great idea. Along with the underlying theme of communication, it made this installment a fun, enjoyable ride for the original series crew.

Mr. Nimoy would go on to continue playing the character even beyond the films that featured the 1960s crew. He appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and most recently the new rebooted series, in which his dignity and class were a much-needed relief for the contemporary ascetic of Star Trek.

Mr. Nimoy contribution to science fiction is incalculable and as the greatest ambassador of Star Trek, he will be missed. The legacy he leaves behind still inspires us to believe in a better humanity and world.

RIP Leonard Nimoy

Brief Examination: Whiplash (2015)

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Whiplash is an impressive piece of work that is raw, exciting and isolative in its depiction of ambition and the lengths to which it can be realised and practiced. The film also impresses in its editing and sound design. They both flawlessly meld into creating short bursts of tension, which also have a beauty too which comes from the sheer talent of the musicians on screen and the music they play.

Additionally the film features a gripping, sweat-inducing central performance from Miles Teller. His character, Andrew Neiman is a young, ambitious man who wants to be the greatest musician of the 20th century as he states quite firmly to his family halfway through the picture.

One of the biggest discuission points of the picture is J.K Simmon’s performance as Terance Fletcher, the provocative and stern music teacher who strongly believes in his teaching method of young Neiman. As of this moment, Simmons has been awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. The Oscar is much deserved as the performance is very strong and a great example of the screenplay, direction and acting harmonising well.

From a screenwriting point of view, the writer shows us Fletcher’s behaviour to such extreme degrees throughout its running time. This is interesting as it’s essentially not asking us to rationalise his behaviour but merely see it. Towards the end of the film, we get a quiet, completive moment where Fletcher tells Neiman why he teaches the way he does. It is a great way for the audience to understand his method without being spoon-fed easy to digest pseudo-psychology that makes us sympathise with him.

In terms of direction, the early scenes almost depict Fletcher as a terrifying, monstrous omnipresent figure. Many of the shots of him are seen through peepholes, from the drummer’s point of view where we are looking up at him, and occasionally obscured shots where we just see his face and hands.

Finally, J.K. Simmons brings the character to life, very well, not being too showy, and using facial expressions to the fullest in showing his current state of mind. One always feel that something is grinding in Fletcher’s head even when he is not judging how the band are playing. Simmons brings this subtle nuance as well as many others to a well-rounded character, which make Whiplash an exhilarating success, even if one does not have an affinity for Jazz.